Scuba diving has always seemed to me like a fascinating activity to try. The ocean and it’s whole ecosystem are gorgeous and unique. There seems like endless opportunities to explore and discover new sights. Since it is an activity that I’m not very knowledgeable about, I reached out to a friend from Australia, which I imagine to be a glorious place to pursue the hobby. In the interview below, Danny Gunn shares some of his experience and knowledge about scuba diving. I have included photos he has taken underwater. Danny Gunn’s photography is stunning, and I would highly recommend following some of his other work as well by going to this website: http://dannygunn.smugmug.com. He has a fine eye for capturing nice lighting, movement, and nature.
Danny Gunn: It’s kind of a strange situation because growing up I was terrified of water. We had a swimming pool in the house I live in and I would either stay in the shallow end or have a rubber (inflatable ring) that would keep me afloat if I went into the deeper end. I eventually got over it when I was about 10 or 11 years old but I was never a good swimmer. However the idea of exploring places appealed to me and it was something to try so we (my now-wife) decided to give it a shot when we were in Thailand and did our PADI Open Water course and then immediately after did the Advanced Open Water course. It just went on from there.
Danny Gunn: The answer to both of those questions would be one and the same. That being – the thrill of exploring new places, or even the same dive site but seeing different marine life, or exploring different areas. The ocean is huge so there is a lot you can see on one dive that you don’t see on the next because you might be 5 or 10 meters left to where you were and there is a whole new area to explore. The second being that it is peaceful. It’s you and the ocean and nothing else. There are no phones, no talking and really no noise aside from your breathing. You can pretty much shut off your mind of all the external happenings in your life and just enjoy the 45 minutes or of being alone beneath the ocean seeing wonderful marine
C.T: What places have you gone to dive?
D.G: I’ve been very lucky in this regards as I have dived in many different places all over the world, this includes Melbourne, Australia – where I live as well as New South Wales and the Great Barrier Reef within Australia, and outside of Australia; Vanuatu, Bali (Indonesia), Thailand, Borneo (Malaysia), Jordan, Malawi, Zanzibar, Mexico, Honduras, Belize.
Mexico has been my favourite place to dive, specifically Cozumel. There was so much to see there, including Turtles, Eagle Rays, Moray Eels, and there were apparently Hammerhead Sharks however I did not see them which was disappointing.
C.T: What are your favorite things to see or discover?
D.G: New marine life I’ve never seen before is exciting. I remember diving in Malaysia and I saw a Cuttlefish for the first time. It was swimming and it’s camouflage was working which was really awesome to see, but when I first saw it I had no idea what it was and thought it was an octopus.
C.T: Are there any lessons you learned through it that would be valuable to share with someone interested or just starting out?
D.G: Don’t be deterred or overwhelmed by it all. Especially by people with more experience than you. You’re not going to be good at it from the first lesson, no one is. Like all things in life, it takes practise to get good and thankfully, with scuba diving, the best way to practise is to go and do it and you’ll see improvements each and every time.
C.T: What would make you recommend this activity to someone else?
D.G: think the freedom you get from diving. Being away from it all and seeing a different part of nature that very few people get to see. It’s also a nice challenge to yourself to your mind and your body without having to push the limits of yourself. There are very little risks and the rewards are worthwhile.
C.T: Are there goals you have for diving in the future?
D.G: I would love to be involved in Marine Research and conservation but it is unlikely that will happen and I have reached where I want to be in terms of certification as a Scuba Instructor (non-teaching though). Now I just want to see different parts of the world and the marine life it contains.
I still have a bucket list I want to check off in terms of animals I want to see – including Whales, Hammerheads, Whale Sharks, and places I want to visit.
C.T: Is it expensive to get into? What would someone need to start?
D.G: It’s not cheap, unfortunately. At least to begin with. You need to be certified – although you can do a try-dive with PADI (not sure with other agencies) which is basically a ‘try before you buy’ where you go through the basics and do a shallow dive at the end of it. But your Open Water Certification isn’t cheap, and that is what you need at a minimum to go proper diving. However once you get passed your certification you’re set to go and I would recommend having your own mask and flippers and subsequently diving after that isn’t too bad, though it depends on location but I would say it is roughly $80 – 100 for a double dive on a boat, and cheaper for shore dives.
If you do invest in your own equipment, diving is cheaper as you don’t have to do equipment hire so long-term it works out but it really depends on how often you want to dive.
C.T: What are some things to be careful of when diving?
D.G:There are some key points all divers should really remember:
The first, and most important, one being is you never ever hold your breath while diving. Prolonged breath holding can cause embolisms.
The second being know your limits. There are a multitude of factors that come into play the deeper you get (eg; you go through air quicker). Don’t be a hero and don’t do something you are not comfortable with, or not trained for. Diving is mostly safe, but like everything else, accidents happen and a lot of it is due to stupidity.
And the final thing is to not touch the marine life/corals. This will be something told you to from the very beginning but it is imperative you leave everything alone. There are a lot of health risk to both animals and humans by touching them, and the ecosystem is fragile. People may feel like they are not doing anything wrong but it is best to simply leave it be and look with your eyes.
C.T: Do you have a particular experience you could describe and how it felt, or what you saw?
D.G: Possibly the first time I saw a Shark, which also happened to be the first time I saw a turtle. I was diving at Coffs Harbor which is located in New South Wales. Almost between Sydney and Brisbane. This was one of the first times I had been diving since I got my certification and we knew there was the possibility of seeing a Grey Nurse Shark (they are harmless Sharks, incapable of biting humans). I’m not sure how long we had been under the water for but I was facing one way and about 10 meters away my wife was looking at me and then she pointed behind me. I turned around and there was this great big Nurse Shark which was absolutely awesome to see. Apparently it had challenged me when I was facing the other way (challenging is they will swim at you and then veer off at the last second, they usually do this if you are higher or at the same level as they are in the water, being below them establishes them as the dominant animal). I can’t describe how it felt, it was just remarkable to see a shark in it’s natural habitat for the first time. It really did not care we were there and just went about it’s business and I felt at the time that people who feared sharks were really missing out on seeing such a graceful creature.
C.T: A lot of people love outdoor activities for mental benefits such as relaxation, problem solving, a natural high, etc. Does diving provide any of that for you? What are some benefits to it?
D.G: Diving provides a lot of time to yourself in some respects. Underwater you get a chance to get away from your phone, people talking, work and just in your own mind exploring or searching.
There are also some nice health benefits as it does provide good exercise which is low impact. Most of the time you don’t even feel like you are doing much but you feel like you’ve had a bit of a workout afterwards.
Also, who doesn’t like going for a dip?
C.T: Is there anything that would make diving not a good idea for a person?
D.G: Not really. If you have any medical conditions you will need a doctor to sign off before you can do anything diving related, which is standard. Otherwise it is really more to do with the person and if they really want to give it a go.